By Steve Zalusky
With critical federal funding for libraries in danger of disappearing in the President’s budget, now is the time for library supporters to contact their legislators in Washington.
Hundreds of librarians will be doing just that by participating in National Library Legislative Day, a two-day advocacy event held May 1 and 2 that brings hundreds of librarians, trustees, library supporters, and patrons to Washington, D.C. to meet with their members of Congress rally support for library issues and policies. Participants will receive advocacy tips and training, along with important issues briefings prior to their meetings.
But even if you can’t make it out to Washington, you can still participate by taking part in Virtual Legislative Day by emailing, calling or Tweeting at your senators and representative from May 1-5. Visit the site to receive action alerts. You will receive a link to the live webcast of the briefing, as well as talking points and other resources.
Lisa Lindle, grassroots communications specialist in the office of government relations in the American Library Association’s Washington Office, which is coordinating the effort, said, “This year all of our priority asks are funding and appropriations related. We're asking to save IMLS. We’re asking senators to sign on to Dear Appropriator letters for LSTA (The Library Services and Technology Act) and IAL (Innovative Approaches to Literacy). And we’re asking both the House and Senate to re-authorize LSTA. All of those things play a big role in making sure that libraries get federal funding.”
The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is the only federal program exclusively for libraries. It is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). State libraries use the funds to support statewide initiatives and also distribute the funds through subgrants or cooperative agreements to public, school, academic, research, and special libraries.
IAL supports high-quality programs designed to develop and improve literacy skills for children and students from birth through 12th grade in high-need local educational agencies and schools. President Trump has proposed eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services in his FY2018 budget.
In a statement, American Library Association (ALA) President Julie Todaro, vowed that the ALA will “mobilize its members, Congressional library champions and the millions upon millions of people we serve in every zip code to keep those ill-advised proposed cuts from becoming a Congressional reality. Libraries leverage the tiny amount of federal funds they receive through their states into an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere to produce what could well be the highest economic and social "ROI" in the entire federal budget.”
She continued, “The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funded through IMLS is the primary annual source of funding for libraries in the federal budget. IMLS distributes the majority of LSTA funds to every state in the nation according to a population-based formula. Each state library determines how to best spend its allocated federal funds, which must be matched at the state level. The range of services provided to millions of Americans through LSTA grants is matched only by the creativity of the libraries that receive them: veterans transitioning to civilian life, small businesses seeking to expand their business online, summer reading programs, resources for blind and hearing-impaired patrons, resume writing and job skills workshops and computer coding courses to teach youth 21st century job skills.
"America's more than 120,000 public, school, college and university and many other libraries are not piles of archived books. They're trusted centers for education, employment, entrepreneurship and free inquiry at the core of communities in every state in the country – and in every Congressional district. And they’re staffed by the original search engines: skilled and engaged librarians."
2017 will be the 43rd year for National Legislative Day. Around 500 people are expected to attend, with representatives from every state. Lindle pointed out that “both the House and Senate are in session this year, so everybody will be in town,” which should provide an advantage.
She added, “Sometimes meeting with the staff of a Congressional office is actually more important, because the members of the staff are the ones who are actually crafting the legislation, who are educating the member of Congress about an issue. So if you get into their head that libraries are important and that libraries care about issues that they might not connect with libraries, like privacy and surveillance or net neutrality, you increase the likelihood that they will communicate that priority to the member of Congress.”
The event kicks off with Briefing Day, which feature Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
That will be followed by issue briefings with the ALA Washington Office staff, during which the major talking points will be covered on such issues as net neutrality, privacy and surveillance and copyright, as well as the federal budget.
Participants will then meet with state delegations, after which advocacy training will be offered by The Campaign Workshop. In addition, there will be breakout sessions with lobbyists that will allow participants to take a deeper dive into issues.
Other sessions will include information on such topics as how build relationships with editorial boards, with a panel that includes Molly Roberts of the Washington Post.